What now? Where to get help if you need it
The Government has announced further changes to the JobKeeper scheme. The good news is that employees that missed out on JobKeeper because they were not employed on 1 March 2020 might now be eligible. The proposed changes would enable employees employed on 1 July 2020 to receive JobKeeper payments from 3 August if they meet the other eligibility criteria. If you have employees impacted by this change, you will still need to work through the eligibility requirements including providing JobKeeper Payment Employee Nomination, but just remember that these changes are not yet law.
JobKeeper will also be extended beyond 27 September 2020. To receive JobKeeper from 28 September 2020, employers will need to reassess their eligibility with reference to actual GST turnover for the September 2020 quarter (for JobKeeper payments between 28 September to 3 January 2021), and again for the December 2020 quarter (for payments between 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021).
Most businesses will generally use their Business Activity Statement (BAS) reporting to assess eligibility. However, as the BAS is generally not due until the month after the end of the quarter, eligibility for JobKeeper will need to be assessed in advance of the BAS reporting deadlines to meet the wage condition for eligible employees.
However, the ATO will have the discretion to extend the time an entity has to pay employees in order to meet the wage condition.
From 28 September 2020, the payment rates for JobKeeper will reduce and split into a higher and lower rate. Whether an eligible employee can access the higher or lower rate will depend on the number of hours they worked during a 4-week test period. The higher rate will apply to employees who worked at least 20 hours a week on average in the four weeks of pay periods prior to either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020. Between 28 September 2020 and 3 January 2021, the higher rate is $1,200 per fortnight and $750 for the lower rate. Between 4 January and 28 March 2021, the higher rate is $1,000 per fortnight and $650 for the lower rate.
Cashflow boost payments
If your business received the first cashflow boost tranche, you will receive a further cashflow boost for the June to September quarters of the same amount. If you report quarterly, the cashflow boost will be paid in two equal payments for June and September. If you report monthly, the cashflow boost is provided in four equal payments.
The cashflow boost is applied to reduce any liabilities in the same reporting period with any excess amount being paid as a cash refund from the ATO.
Support for business employing apprentices and trainees
JobTrainer provides a 50% reimbursement to eligible employers for the cost of apprentice or trainee wages up to $7,000 per quarter. Originally only for small businesses employing less than 20 employees, the subsidy recently expanded to include businesses with under 200 employees.
For small businesses (under 20 employees), the apprentice had to be employed on 1 March 2020 or on 1 July 2020 for claims after this date (claims are open now). For medium sized businesses (under 200 employees), the apprentice had to be employed on 1 July 2020 (claims open 1 October 2020). To access the subsidy, you will need to provide evidence of wages paid to the apprentice.
The subsidy is also accessible to larger employers employing apprentices let go by a small/medium business where that apprentice was eligible for the wage subsidy.
The subsidy is scheduled to end on 31 March 2021.
State & territory based support
In addition to general waivers, reductions or rebates on some Government licensing and fees, each State and Territory has some form of support accessible to certain businesses impacted by COVID-19.
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Help for individuals
Services Australia has an online payment guide that guides you through the payments available if you are impacted by COVID-19 and what you might be able to access.
Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for Victoria
If you have to self-isolate or quarantine at home because of COVID-19 or are caring for someone who is, and cannot earn an income as a result, you might be eligible for a $1,500 payment.
Tightening of access to income support
From 25 September 2020, the assets test and the Liquid Assets Waiting Period (applies to those with assets such as cash savings worth over $5,500 for singles or $11,000 for singles with children and partnered people) will be reintroduced for access to income support payments.
In addition, partner income testing will resume from 25 September 2020, albeit with higher thresholds than those pre COVID-19. That is, you will not be eligible for income support if you are not earning an income but your partner earns $3,086.11 per fortnight or $80,238.89 per annum.
Job seeking requirements that were suspended from 24 March 2020 have been introduced from 9 June 2020. Some leniency has been provided for Victorians if you maintain contact with your employment service provider.
The Coronavirus supplement will continue, albeit on a reduced rate of $250 per fortnight (from $550), from 25 September until 31 December 2020 for eligible individuals.
Early access to superannuation
Figures from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority show that over $30 billion has been taken from superannuation to date under hardship provisions. If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident and New Zealand citizen, you can apply to release up to $10,000 of your superannuation between 1 July 2020 and 31 December 2020 if you were made redundant, your working hours have been reduced by more than 20%, and you have been adversely financially impacted by COVID-19. If you are not in financial hardship you should not access your superannuation. The application process through myGov is a self-assessment process that you are responsible for. Penalties of up to $12,000 may apply for providing false or misleading information.
Some financial institutions are reporting that early access to superannuation will be a factor taken into account for those seeking to apply for loans – lenders may interpret early access as meaning that you are unable to meet your commitments and or are insolvent, and this is likely to impact on your creditworthiness.